CD Review: UNTETHERED (The Complete Song Cycles of Valerie Saalbach; Soprano Elyse Anne Kakacek)

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by Eve Meadows on November 8, 2019



Beautiful, fascinating and moving, yet strangely and sometimes gratingly one-note, Valerie Saalbach’s three wholly modern song cycles get a bravura treatment from American soprano Elyse Anne Kakacek on True Capture Records, a new label. The trio of poets Saalbach used as her lyricists are Emily Dickenson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Catarina de Camoens), and Steven Kowit (Gods of Rapture). As with most great poetry, it takes a sort of meditative reading to see through the dense words, but this music is not soothing — nor does it elucidate the power of the poetry. It is that same note pattern one would find in newer operas, in which the melody shocks and surprises much more than creating a partner to the words. Kakacek is an extraordinarily powerful soprano, and the recording here puts her squarely in your living room as if she were there live — aided by the sensitive piano of Christopher Fecteau — but her recital is very loud and repetitive even with her operatic colors and sensitive shading. Don’t get me wrong, there are bursts of exquisite beauty here, but how odd that poems which are alternately heartbreaking and erotic end up sounding the same. This is clearly a female-centric project, and the intentions to forge flourishing femininity in art is admirable, but with lyrics so impenetrable that one must read them in the liner notes, the message will only make it to a few ears, I fear.

The Complete Song Cycles of Valerie Saalbach
Elyse Anne Kakacek, soprano & Christopher Fecteau, piano
True Capture Records
20 tracks | 40:45 | released September 1, 2019
available on CD Baby and Amazon

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